The expansion of the playoffs to have two Wild Card teams was meant to widen the competition and keep teams in contention longer. No one expected the Los Angeles Angels to be 9.5 games out of second Wild Card spot, before the middle of June. A combination of sporadic hitting and lackluster pitching has put the Angels behind the eight ball. If they want to climb back into contention, they’ll need to show that they can compete with the American League’s elite. Their next nine games are against the three top teams in the American League East, beginning with this weekend’s three game set against the Boston Red Sox.
Friday night the struggling Halos will send Tommy Hanson to the mound. After acquiring Hanson this offseason for just middle reliever Jordan Walden, he has struggled to find consistent success. Noting an extended absence for injury, Hanson has a 4.19 ERA in 34.1 innings this season. With just a 19-10 K/BB ratio, Hanson looks like a completely different pitcher than he did early in his career. According to Fan Graphs, Hanson has completely changed his pitching approach this season. In every previous season, Hanson had thrown his fastball twice as often as any other pitch. This season, Hanson has thrown a nearly identical number of sliders and fastballs. While hitters are hitting his fastball very well – .385 batting average-against – they are not seeing his slider well. Hitters are just 11/55 against his slider this season, with six strikeouts. If Hanson wants to reinvent himself and try to enjoy similar success to that of his earlier years, this newfound emphasis on the slider maybe the best way to go.
The Red Sox will send Felix Doubront to the hill. Doubront has struggled mightily this year, with a 4.88 ERA in 55.1 innings. That can be attributed primarily to his 59-29 K/BB ratio. In this current era, where elements do not lend themselves well to run creation, pitchers fundamentally cannot be successfully allowing that many free passes. The Angels have struggled with plate discipline thus far, but considering Doubront’s struggles, they could test their patience here.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.